Nearly 50 years ago, President Nixon declared war on certain drugs. A lot of people weren't convinced that cannabis was terrible, so Congress established a commission to study cannabis.
That commission reported that cannabis was no more harmful than alcohol and that the harm of the drug was not enough to warrant intrusion by the law.
Nixon ignored the recommendations and "declared war" on cannabis, too. In 1994, Nixon's key advisor John Erlichman admitted that the Nixon administration was "lying," and was doing so specifically to "vilify...the anti-war left and black people." Yet to this day, state and federal policies differ widely. Consider a few examples:
The Commerce Clause of the Constitution guarantees a single, nationwide economic market, and the Supreme Court has repeatedly struck down laws that restrict economic activity to a single state. But the federal government allows cannabis businesses to operate only in single states – making cannabis the only commodity in U.S. history that cannot cross state lines.
Federal law creates liability for banks that open accounts for cannabis businesses, forcing most cannabis businesses to operate with cash.
Last month, a federal appeals court said that Congress had reasonably concluded that using cannabis "raises the risk of irrational and unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated." Therefore, the federal government's ban on gun ownership for medical marijuana cardholders does not violate the Second Amendment's right to bear arms. How would America's drinkers react to having their guns taken away under the reasoning that drinkers can occasionally become "irrational and unpredictable?" Even suspected terrorists who are on the federal government's "no-fly list" are allowed to purchase guns.
Americans have received life sentences for possessing cannabis but no one has been sentenced to life for killing someone while driving drunk.
The issue goes deep into America's cultural institutions. Last month, Dallas Cowboys' running back Ezekiel Elliott visited a pot shop in Seattle. Elliott did not buy or ingest cannabis – something that is strictly forbidden by NFL rules – yet he was forced to apologize for the visit. There was no mention of how many Cowboy players visited bars during their trip to Seattle.